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Carol Mancke

PhD Work

Appearing in Public: The affordances of hopeless spaces

Many scholars see the public realm as a common resource that is genuinely open to all as having been hopelessly circumscribed by political and economic processes. It is important to understand how contemporary art practices participate in these processes, whether through resistance or through inadvertent or knowing collusion.

A sense of ‘hopelessness’ can constrain a community’s ability to rethink ways to organise and inhabit space. This practice-based research interrogates the capacity of artistic practices to suggest fresh ways to think about and produce the physical, social and cultural structures that support everyday life. The particular focus of the practice component is on frameworks for collaborative thinking. What constitute favourable conditions for collaborative thinking and what forms of practice offer these conditions? What are some of the ways that artistic practice can generate new forms of thinking together? How have other artists done this and with what political, social and aesthetic possibilities and consequences?The questions are addressed through theory, the critique of existing artwork and the development of projects that test tactics in real sites.

Theorists who worry about public space have staked claims within a shifting field that continuously opens up and closes down spaces for artistic speculation. I look carefully at key texts and concepts developed by Hannah Arendt, Jürgen Habermas, Henri Lefebvre, Rosalyn Deutsche, Chantal Mouffe, Bruno Latour, Jacques Rancière, Grant Kester and Claire Bishop to establish the conceptual site and theoretical underpinning for my practical explorations.

I look at the reception and afterlife (real and potential) of a few carefully chosen socio-spatial artistic practices that operate in and about the public realm and generate public discussion about topics of concern to the local community. They may be ephemeral, relational (Bourriaud, 2002), dialogic (Kester, 2004) or referred to as ‘new genre’ public art (Lacy, 1994) or ‘socially engaged art’.

The projects attempt to expose underlying processes that limit the scope of the public realm and propose tactics to enable new forms of collective imagination and action. The projects take place in publicly accessible sites and focus on the gap between the individual and formal politics. These activities challenge preconceived notions of particular situations and/or places by discovering and activating affordances using objects, physicality, humour, sociality and aesthetics.


  • Carol Mancke
  • PhD


    School of Arts & Humanities


    Arts & Humanities Research, 2013–

  • Working at the intersection of fine art and cities, Carol Mancke seeks to create thought-provoking interventions in situations and places of everyday life through individual and collaborative projects. Her practice engages a variety of time frames – permanent, temporary and ephemeral – and ranges from objects, environments, workshops, dialogue and conversation. 

    Carol explores the performative possibilities of places and situations by interfering in the social fabric of environments sometimes generating a platform or framework together with an invitation to the viewer to act.

    Carol's research focuses on how public space has been and/or might be mobilized to generate alternative ways to think about and produce the built environment. She is founding director of art and architecture practice, Machina Loci.

  • Degrees

  • BA Fine Art. Central St Martins College of Art 2008; Master of Architecture. University of California, Berkeley 1984; BS Urban Studies. Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1975; Certificate. Interuniversity Center for Japanese Studies 1989
  • Experience

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  • Exhibitions

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  • Awards

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  • Conferences

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  • Publications

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